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Question: Which of the following would the community most appreciate?
New ZTEX/BFL/Icarus/Other... Competitor - 16 (61.5%)
Miner Control Motherboard (NoPC) - 6 (23.1%)
Other (Please Reply) - 4 (15.4%)
Total Voters: 26

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Author Topic: What's the best use of my time/energy? (FPGA/Control Tech)  (Read 2177 times)
wondermine
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Facta


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February 29, 2012, 10:28:30 AM
 #1

Firstly let me state that I will be releasing all source code to date, and I will be helping anyone who needs it.
I'd like to contribute to this community.

That said, after a lot of looking around, designing, talking, and pondering, it seems that ZTEX and BFL have some hard-to-beat boards, as some people made very clear in my other thread. 
Starting a new SoPC to mine bitcoin at this point seems to only want to draw ridicule...

So
I'll float an idea...

Option 1:
Were I to develop a board that was priced 300-350 USD that had the following features:
  • Spartan-6 (or similar) @ 200MH/s (exact TBD, using XC6SLX150 Specs)
  • ARM Cortex-M3 (or similar) Serving Ethernet & Control Functionality
  • Optional USB configuration/communication
  • Standalone Architecture (Ethernet only, no USB PC host)
  • Simple Web Interface & Config (HTTP Server w/ statistics, status, config...)
  • Extensible Architecture (Mezzanine [aka stackable] or similar build)

Would that be interesting to anyone?  I know the hashrate, cost, and power consumption are similar to other competing technologies, but the essentially plug-and-play configuration, web interface, and mezzanine extensibility do make it a lot easier to start using.

Option 2:
I say, forget this, I'm just going to use ZTEX, and make a motherboard for ZTEX daughter cards so that they can be controlled without a PC host, and still have a web interface for configuration/data, price ~$100 to handle multiple ZTEX boards (I need to look at more specs to know precisely how many).

Either of these options would be complemented with a full featured web application and configuration utility, so no more Java, no more terminals, no more OS specific utilities, or any of the other technologies crammed together to make all this work.

If people are interested, I'd love to do this.  I don't mind making "third-party" technology.
Now, importantly, I won't be asking for money to start this project.  This will be all on my own time, on my own dime, until I have a working proof of concept that I can put pictures, screenshots, and demos up of.
As always donations will expedite things, but if for some reason I need something specific, I'll mention it.
What that all means is, I just wanna know if it's gonna be worth it.  It's gonna be a lot of work to do either of these options, and I want to know that at the end, there will be people willing to purchase these.  Basically, all I need is a show of hands.

Thanks so much, and I'll continue to keep things updated.  Expect VHDL from Nanominer over the next couple weeks, and more specifications of the proposed project over the next few days.

Thanks so much!

Nanominer <=  www.nonverba.org/nanominer
Bitcoin Address: 1BuQwoDmt6DzwNTPcpxego1CzDBmivX3hY
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February 29, 2012, 11:01:32 AM
 #2

I went with Ztex for now but it would be nice to see a Competitor in that field. Moving with Ztex was the right move fo me because here in Germany all the other FPGA Boards that are aviable in the maket right now are: 1. hard to get.  2. expensive (with taxes and shipping costs) and  3. they only have limited warranty (ore warranty invalid like icarus)

If you habe the money and abillity to do it then why not:D

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February 29, 2012, 11:12:17 AM
 #3

Option 2:
I say, forget this, I'm just going to use ZTEX, and make a motherboard for ZTEX daughter cards so that they can be controlled without a PC host, and still have a web interface for configuration/data, price ~$100 to handle multiple ZTEX boards (I need to look at more specs to know precisely how many).

First of all, you seem to be forgetting (or do not know) that there are two other FPGA mining boards out there, both at much lower prices than the Ztex board: Icarus and X6500.

As for your question, there already is a motherboard that can run many USB based FPGA miners (all of the FPGA miners are USB based) and it costs ~$100. It's an Atom based mini-ITX board like this one. I run my X6500s on one, and at one time had 24 boards on it (48 FPGAs) with no problems. So, I vote for the first one, and I welcome the competition!

Another option would be to work on software that supports several FPGA miners, like MPBM.

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February 29, 2012, 11:53:31 AM
 #4


Why don't you try an advance the Mhash/$ by using your skills to fit a whole unrolled chain into a spartan6 LX100.
From Elden Tyrells 3 ring project it seems this should be possible.
Then make a board with 4 of those. This should give a total board price and performance similar to the BFL single.

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1ngldh


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February 29, 2012, 04:27:35 PM
 #5

I would love to see a dedicated, open protocol and interface other than USB that could be used for daisy-chaining many devices. If the protocol and interface were cheap and open, it could be possible to apply the same interface across diverse products, and all control them on the same bus.

There are a number of bus technologies that already exist, but they all need to be properly evaluated, and a cost assigned to them, i.e. cost per node in wholesale manufacturing quantities. Often in these discussions Ethernet comes up and is discussed, but is determined to have a cost per node that is too great to be of value.

To accompany this lofty initiative, an inexpensive and useable head controller/marshaling device needs to also be designed. It could be based on something extremely simple such as Atmega/PIC/Basic Stamp/Arduino, or something a bit more powerful based on ARM and/or x86. It would be self-contained - possibly a USB, JTAG, or serial port for programming, and an Ethernet port for communication during normal tasks.

This way, a single device (or more, if N+ redundancy were built in) could control a wide number of devices from many manufacturers, assuming they could be convinced to include the special interface - thus the need for it to be inexpensive.

Mining Rig Extraordinaire - the Trenton BPX6806 18-slot PCIe backplane [PICS] Dead project is dead, all hail the coming of the mighty ASIC!
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March 01, 2012, 01:10:49 AM
 #6

I would love to see a dedicated, open protocol and interface other than USB that could be used for daisy-chaining many devices. If the protocol and interface were cheap and open, it could be possible to apply the same interface across diverse products, and all control them on the same bus.

There are a number of bus technologies that already exist, but they all need to be properly evaluated, and a cost assigned to them, i.e. cost per node in wholesale manufacturing quantities. Often in these discussions Ethernet comes up and is discussed, but is determined to have a cost per node that is too great to be of value.

To accompany this lofty initiative, an inexpensive and useable head controller/marshaling device needs to also be designed. It could be based on something extremely simple such as Atmega/PIC/Basic Stamp/Arduino, or something a bit more powerful based on ARM and/or x86. It would be self-contained - possibly a USB, JTAG, or serial port for programming, and an Ethernet port for communication during normal tasks.

This way, a single device (or more, if N+ redundancy were built in) could control a wide number of devices from many manufacturers, assuming they could be convinced to include the special interface - thus the need for it to be inexpensive.
We don't really need even more standards do we? What's wrong with USB?

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March 01, 2012, 04:42:33 AM
 #7

We don't really need even more standards do we? What's wrong with USB?
It does too many things, and none of them well at all. Protocols such as 1wire are used in industrial facilities for a good reason - they are cheap as hell, and extremely robust. They are long distance (none of the USB-6-foot bullshit, sure you can make a longer USB cable but no guarantee it will work), and a simple daisy-chain topology instead of the rats-nest inducing star topology with hubs and whatever else.

Mining Rig Extraordinaire - the Trenton BPX6806 18-slot PCIe backplane [PICS] Dead project is dead, all hail the coming of the mighty ASIC!
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March 01, 2012, 06:18:57 PM
 #8

tbh, we're better off having someone make http://www.raspberrypi.org/ work perfectly for connecting mining hardware to Smiley

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March 01, 2012, 06:54:45 PM
 #9

1. create a description of what the marketplace wants
2. model the description over time, BTC-time, i.e. what happens to the model when reward is halved, etc.
3. decide what pieces to use
4. don't get diverted into developing new buses or protocols, make do with what's here now

I am only learning about hardware, and FPGA technology, specifically. It seems to me that the best approach would be to allow a system to be expanded as it is affordable.

Have you seen schmartboards? Maybe purists scoff at that? I may misunderstand schmartboards but would it be possible to buy FPGAs and add them using schmartboard in a sort of expand-as-money-becomes-available scenario?

Maybe there is a modeler out there already? For example I have no idea how much bandwidth is required of a miner. How many FPGAs can share a 10Mbit connection.

Just throwing out thoughts/ideas.


BTC: 1JgPAC8RVeh7RXqzmeL8xt3fvYahRXL3fP
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March 01, 2012, 07:07:59 PM
 #10

tbh, we're better off having someone make http://www.raspberrypi.org/ work perfectly for connecting mining hardware to Smiley
QFT

DeathAndTaxes
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March 01, 2012, 09:29:59 PM
 #11

We don't really need even more standards do we? What's wrong with USB?
It does too many things, and none of them well at all. Protocols such as 1wire are used in industrial facilities for a good reason - they are cheap as hell, and extremely robust. They are long distance (none of the USB-6-foot bullshit, sure you can make a longer USB cable but no guarantee it will work), and a simple daisy-chain topology instead of the rats-nest inducing star topology with hubs and whatever else.

How about serial?  Never understood why FPGA boards don't just connect over serial.  It is easy to daisy chain and you can use just about any physical wiring including the ultra cheap RJ-45.



Something like:
Code:
| host PC     |                          |  FPGA #1  |    |  FPGA #2  |      |  FPGA #255  |
|       [DB 9]| [DB 9 to RJ45 adapter]---|[in]  [out]|----|[in]  [out]| .... |[in]    [out]|  <- capped

You save a usb controller on each board, no need for hubs, and can use dirt cheap cat5 cable (even crimping your own if you want).  Would also make it much easier to form large clusters.  Using a MOLEX in/out power connector you could chain up the power also.
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March 01, 2012, 09:38:29 PM
 #12

RS485 would be more appropriate; allows for muti-drop systems and uses differential signals.

Be a good idea though. Save $20 per 4-8 devices. Not sure how many devices you could practically dasy-chain though. the lead one will have quite a current load on it!
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Gerald Davis


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March 01, 2012, 09:50:49 PM
 #13

Be a good idea though. Save $20 per 4-8 devices. Not sure how many devices you could practically dasy-chain though.

Well that is beyond my knowledge but I have seen industrial A/D and relay boards which allow 128 or even 256 boards to be chained.
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1ngldh


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March 01, 2012, 10:10:04 PM
 #14

Be a good idea though. Save $20 per 4-8 devices. Not sure how many devices you could practically dasy-chain though.

Well that is beyond my knowledge but I have seen industrial A/D and relay boards which allow 128 or even 256 boards to be chained.
1wire was my example, and it doesn't really get any simpler. 1 ground/shield, and 1 signal. No special connectors needed. Daisy-chain to your heart's content. Maximum run length of 300 meters have been tested on a single twisted pair, and speeds should be acceptable for the minimal data traffic that mining uses.

Any networks that rely on token buses should be avoided, what happens if a device goes offline taking the token with it? and other similar hassles.

Another interesting option would be I2C, but devices need licensing fees to get addresses assigned to them.

For serial, isn't that also a star topology? If it can easily be daisy-chained, then yeah that could work. RS485 was another one I considered, but I don't remember why I came to the conclusion that it was insufficient.

Mining Rig Extraordinaire - the Trenton BPX6806 18-slot PCIe backplane [PICS] Dead project is dead, all hail the coming of the mighty ASIC!
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March 01, 2012, 10:47:53 PM
 #15

1-wire buses have quite a complicated protocol, RS485 is the same at RS232, just electrically different.
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Gerald Davis


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March 01, 2012, 11:03:38 PM
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For serial, isn't that also a star topology? If it can easily be daisy-chained, then yeah that could work.
No it is a bus, daisy chaining isn't a problem it is routinely done in embedded system and industrial boards.  

The advantage of plane boring serial is that most computers already have a serial port and even machines like Pi and embedded micro controllers have UART which is serial you can use any connector you like (standardized or customized).

Serial literally can be this simple:
Plug one end of cable into host (Pi/ AMR board, low power PC, embedded system, etc).
Plug other end into first FPGA.
Take second cable connect first FPGA to second
...
take 255th cable and connect 254th FPGA to 255th.

Power up and run "cgminer" (once it supports serial devices).

No fees, open spec, very simple protocol, and can use lots of different physical layers including cheap & robust RJ-45 terminated cat5.  For the rare system which doesn't have a serial port (most MB do even if they leave it off the back panel) a single $10 USB to serial adapter could connect hundred FPGA to a host.
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March 01, 2012, 11:13:34 PM
 #17

For serial, isn't that also a star topology? If it can easily be daisy-chained, then yeah that could work.
No it is a bus, daisy chaining isn't a problem it is routinely done in embedded system and industrial boards.  

The advantage of plane boring serial is that most computers already have a serial port and even machines like Pi and embedded micro controllers have UART which is serial you can use any connector you like (standardized or customized).

Serial literally can be this simple:
Plug one end of cable into host (Pi/ AMR board, low power PC, embedded system, etc).
Plug other end into first FPGA.
Take second cable connect first FPGA to second
...
take 255th cable and connect 254th FPGA to 255th.

Power up and run "cgminer" (once it supports serial devices).

No fees, open spec, very simple protocol, and can use lots of different physical layers including cheap & robust RJ-45 terminated cat5.  For the rare system which doesn't have a serial port (most MB do even if they leave it off the back panel) a single $10 USB to serial adapter could connect hundred FPGA to a host.
OK great, sounds like a good interface even though it is older than dinosaurs, now all we need is a standard protocol that can be used for sending and receiving work units (and their results), firmware updates, and so forth.

Imagine this: If it were adopted by hardware makers, you could be able to buy a ztex one day, an x6500 tomorrow, and be able to add a Rig Box next month when your paycheck comes in. Plug them all into the same bus, run one instance of cgminer, and as if by magic the devices get programmed with the latest firmware and start hashing away.

What should it be called?

Mining Rig Extraordinaire - the Trenton BPX6806 18-slot PCIe backplane [PICS] Dead project is dead, all hail the coming of the mighty ASIC!
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March 01, 2012, 11:15:35 PM
 #18

Minebus

Smiley
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March 01, 2012, 11:16:14 PM
 #19

For serial, isn't that also a star topology? If it can easily be daisy-chained, then yeah that could work.
No it is a bus, daisy chaining isn't a problem it is routinely done in embedded system and industrial boards.  

The advantage of plane boring serial is that most computers already have a serial port and even machines like Pi and embedded micro controllers have UART which is serial you can use any connector you like (standardized or customized).

Serial literally can be this simple:
Plug one end of cable into host (Pi/ AMR board, low power PC, embedded system, etc).
Plug other end into first FPGA.
Take second cable connect first FPGA to second
...
take 255th cable and connect 254th FPGA to 255th.

Power up and run "cgminer" (once it supports serial devices).

No fees, open spec, very simple protocol, and can use lots of different physical layers including cheap & robust RJ-45 terminated cat5.  For the rare system which doesn't have a serial port (most MB do even if they leave it off the back panel) a single $10 USB to serial adapter could connect hundred FPGA to a host.
OK great, sounds like a good interface even though it is older than dinosaurs, now all we need is a standard protocol that can be used for sending and receiving work units (and their results), firmware updates, and so forth.

Imagine this: If it were adopted by hardware makers, you could be able to buy a ztex one day, an x6500 tomorrow, and be able to add a Rig Box next month when your paycheck comes in. Plug them all into the same bus, run one instance of cgminer, and as if by magic the devices get programmed with the latest firmware and start hashing away.

What should it be called?
The Unicorn protocol? Standards are great to dream about, but getting all the devs to do work together is going to be hard

rjk
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March 01, 2012, 11:17:14 PM
 #20

Minebus

Smiley
I like it! Anyone want to start drafting a spec?

Mining Rig Extraordinaire - the Trenton BPX6806 18-slot PCIe backplane [PICS] Dead project is dead, all hail the coming of the mighty ASIC!
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